With the most recent playoff loss and the season essentially over, I thought that it would be uplifting to go through and pick the best linebackers that have ever put on a Patriot uniform.
When you are doing a list like this, it is so difficult to pick the BEST player at any position just because the game evolves so much over time. Nevertheless, here are the five guys that I picked, with some honorable mentions at the end.
Mike Vrabel, OLB
I think we all remember this guy. While he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs prior and post to his Patriots career, Mike Vrabel played for the New England Patriots during the peak of his athletic career. With the Patriots, Vrabel was a 3-time NFL Super Bowl Champion, 4-time AFC Champion, as well as getting the personal accolades of a Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro nod in 2007. Simply put, Mike Vrabel is a winner. Vrabel was also a member of the Patriots 50th Anniversary team and Sports Illustrated All-Decade Team. In his career, Vrabel recorded 704 tackles, 57 QB sacks, 11 interceptions, and 17 forced fumbles. Mike Vrabel epitomized Bill Belichick's philosophy of versatility and grit.
Willie McGinest, DE/OLB
Willie, Willie, Willie. Selected by the New England Patriots 4th overall in the 1994 NFL Draft, Willie McGinest was a cornerstone piece to the success and eventual dynasty that the New England Patriots possess. From 1994 to 2005, McGinest played in a number of different schemes and roles for the Patriots. As a 2-time Pro Bowler (1995, 2003) and 3-time NFL Super Bowl Champion, he is one of the most decorated linebackers in New England Patriots history. McGinest was a member of the New England Patriots All-1990s Team, as well as the Patriots All-2000s Team. While he finished his career with the Cleveland Browns, everyone always thinks of Willie as a lifelong Patriot. McGinest finished his career with 582 tackles, 86 sacks, 5 interceptions and a nod into the Patriots Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
Tedy Bruschi, MLB
Speaking of what it means to be a Patriots, please meet, if you don't know him already, Tedy Bruschi. After being selected in the 3rd Round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of the University of Arizona by the New England Patriots, Bruschi played his entire 13-year career with the team. As a defensive mismatch, Bruschi switched off as purely a pass rusher, to a more defined role as a true linebacker. You don't need me to tell you his stats, but I will anyway. Bruschi was a Pro Bowler (2004), 2-time All-Pro (2003, 2004), 3-time NFL Super Bowl Champion, 5-time AFC Champion, a 2-time recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2005), and a member of the New England Patriots All-2000s Team, the 50th Anniversary Team, and a member of the Patriots Football Hall of Fame. In his career, Bruschi amassed 1,110 tackles, 30.5 sacks, 12 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.
Nick Buoniconti, LB
While he will almost always be remembered as a cornerstone to the Miami Dolphins' franchise, people tend to forget that Nick Buoniconti was drafted by the AFL Boston Patriots in 1962. With the Pats, he appeared in five AFL All-Star Games, recorded 24 interceptions, which is still the seventh-most in team history, was a member of the Patriots' All-1960s team and a member of the AFL All-Time team. Then, well, he went to the Dolphins and everyone knows the rest of that story. Screw you, 1972 'Phins.
Andre Tippett, LB/DE
In the 2nd Round of the 1982 NFL Draft, the Patriots selected an All-American defensive end out of the University of Iowa named Andre Tippett. Tippett didn't do much, except be a 5-time Pro Bowler, and own multiple sack records with the Patriots that he still holds today. As a defensive end-turned-linebacker, Tippett had a knack for getting to the quarterback and used that to his advantage to have one of the best defensive careers in a Patriot uniform. Tippett is a member of the Patriots Football Hall of Fame, while also being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL's All-1980s Team. After spending his entire 12-year career with the Patriots (1982-1993), Tippett amassed 100 sacks in 151 games, which is also a Patriots record.
What do you guys think? Am I stupid or did I nail it? Comment below and let me hear who you have!
By Pete Packowski